Views From Tampa: Rules Do Matter

by Jason Tolbert ([email protected]) 76 views 

Rep. Ann Clemmer from Bryant is unopposed for her third term in the Arkansas House of Representatives.  She is a delegate at the Republican National Convention in Tampa and passes along this update.

This year, like 2008, the first day of the convention was canceled due to a hurricane. By canceling one day, the convention schedule had to be compressed, pushing the business of the convention to Tuesday.

In addition to the nomination of presidential and vice presidential candidates and the writing of the platform, the convention votes on the rules for the party and handles credentials challenges, many of which arise from poorly written state party rules.

Rules do matter. Republicans differ from the Democrats in that the Republican National Convention approves the rules. In the Democratic Party, the rules can be written and changed by the national committee in the months following the presidential election.

There are a number of issues that arise from this: first, national committees are significantly smaller bodies than national conventions, are thus less representative of their party’s grassroots and much more nationally focused. Secondly, it allows the party to use the election outcome to influence the rules. For the Democrats this has allowed their national committee to change national party rules to produce what the committee would view as a more electable candidate. The main focus of both party’s national committees is to get their party’s candidate for president elected. While this would seem an obvious goal, the party is about more than one election; the rules should strive to fortify meaningful party organizations that will have real input in the presidential nomination process.

This year, two proposed rules changes for the GOP have caused some concern among delegates. One would have allowed the Republican National Committee to change a significant portion of the rules passed by the convention with a 2/3 votes of the National Committee. Arkansas delegates serving on this committee objected and were able to force a compromise to change the required number to a 3/4 vote-a significant hurdle.

An even more controversial rule would allow the presidential candidates to “disavow” delegates chosen at the state level and replace with someone of his choosing. This rule seemed clearly aimed at so called insurgent movements that might produce delegates without true Republican leanings. States have latitude in determining their individual methods of delegate selection; this change would clearly nationalize the process. Republicans opposing this are holding true to their support of federalism/states’ rights. A compromise seems likely at this point.

As a side note: delegates currently sign an affidavit pledging their support to a specific candidate. They are bound on the first ballot to vote for that candidate unless the candidate has withdrawn and released the delegates.

The rules were voted on Tuesday afternoon.

(Editors note – Here is an update from CNN on this debate on Tuesday.)